PDA

View Full Version : What would you do?



maestrowork
09-04-2008, 09:06 AM
A serious question for the writers (or readers):

If you come across some material -- manuscript, cover art, synopsis, etc. -- that is, in your opinion, simply awful or needs a lot of work, what would you say to the creator? Especially if they haven't solicited your opinion. Would you:

a) keep your mouth shut and mind your own business?

b) tell a white lie so they feel good about themselves?

c) tell them you think it can be improved and hope they are receptive of your suggestions?

d) tell them the truth: "it's awful; you need to redo/rewrite it"?

Toothpaste
09-04-2008, 09:11 AM
It really depends. You have to be able to judge the person, their relationship with you, and what would be most helpful to them in that instant.

I have certain friends with whom it is most important to offer encouragement. That is where they are right now, and that is what matters most. Then I have others for whom I am pretty blunt (and expect the same in return). I want them to trust what I say to them, so that when I do praise them it is sincere. Also our relationship is such that we don't need to sugar coat things, we know we respect each other's work, and ultimately respect and like it. It needn't be said every time.

Then there are the kids who write to me asking for advice, it is important to encourage the fact that they are writing, but also give a few kind suggestions.

So yeah . . . maybe you could offer a few more specifics.

If you are unsure, though, be kind.

katiemac
09-04-2008, 09:19 AM
I guess I'm a bit unclear on your context. If I "came across" it and no one asked me, then I'd probably just keep my mouth shut. But if someone said "check out my new cover," I'd probably find something nice to say about it.

maestrowork
09-04-2008, 09:29 AM
Let's say someone hands it to you and say, "Hey, check it out, my latest and greatest and it's going out next week."

katiemac
09-04-2008, 09:31 AM
Then at least I'd be able to say "Congratulations! I'm proud of you" or similar.

NicoleMD
09-04-2008, 09:33 AM
I'd keep my mouth shut if they don't ask. I'd offer a few suggestions if they did. Telling someone their work is crap isn't helpful. Writing is a journey and people are allowed to suck in their own time and space.

Nicole

JeanneTGC
09-04-2008, 09:38 AM
"What an adorable baby, you must be so proud!"

Once it's DONE and THERE, there is nothing you should say. If you're asked at a stage where your constructive criticism can still help, great, speak up. Otherwise, the baby is lovely and won't he grow up to be handsome/won't she be a beauty.

ETA: And, just because you hate it means nothing. I point to the myriad threads we have here with people saying how much they hate so-and-so's bestseller. You may think it stinks, but it could be the next big hit, too.

MaryMumsy
09-04-2008, 10:22 AM
Speaking as a reader, if my opinion hasn't been solicited, I would keep my mouth shut. If someone knows me well enough to ask my opinion, they know I pull no punches.

MM

JJ Cooper
09-04-2008, 12:05 PM
I said it was a rough draft for you to enjoy, Ray.

If they haven't asked for an opinion - don't offer one. Especially as it is going out soon. Too late for changes and it will ruin the experience for the writer (already many doubts as you all know at this stage). Chances are you'll be asked down the track your thoughts of the piece. This is the tricky bit. Be honest and encouraging, just getting published is a big effort.

Additionally, it may be well received by others and not just your 'cup of tea'. A lot of writers are critical of The DVC - most readers love it.

JJ

dpaterso
09-04-2008, 12:14 PM
If you come across some material -- manuscript, cover art, synopsis, etc. -- that is, in your opinion, simply awful or needs a lot of work, what would you say to the creator?
Depending on the scenario, I'd:


Especially if they haven't solicited your opinion.
a) keep my mouth shut and mind my own business.


Let's say someone hands it to you and say, "Hey, check it out, my latest and greatest and it's going out next week."
d) tell them the truth: "It's awful, you need to redo/rewrite it."

-Derek

blacbird
09-04-2008, 12:21 PM
If they haven't solicited my opinion? Option A, absolutely. None o' my bidness.

caw

stephenf
09-04-2008, 12:21 PM
a

blacbird
09-04-2008, 12:25 PM
a

Wins the award for the most succinct message ever on this board. Be you a minimalist, Stephen?

caw

Deccydiva
09-04-2008, 12:51 PM
If I wasn't asked my opinion directly with the originator standing expectantly in front of me, I would say nothing. If an answer was required and I really hated it, I would say it wasn't my cup of tea but good luck with it.

maestrowork
09-04-2008, 01:29 PM
Now let's throw another wrench in this.

What if it's your loved ones (mother, father, sibling, spouse, children, etc.) and you really want them to succeed, but they may not be receptive of your criticism (plus they didn't ask for it)?

Fun, eh?

:)

Mr Flibble
09-04-2008, 01:44 PM
What if it's your loved ones (mother, father, sibling, spouse, children, etc.) and you really want them to succeed, but they may not be receptive of your criticism (plus they didn't ask for it)?

Depends which brother ;)

Ok, if they didn't ask for criticism I'd probably say ' Congratulations! Are you happy with it? It's not really my cup of tea, but so long as you're happy, I'm uber pleased for you!'

Unless it's Evil Brother. In which case I'd say it was crap. Because that's what he says about everything I've ever done, and it's time for payback!

dpaterso
09-04-2008, 01:51 PM
What if it's your loved ones (mother, father, sibling, spouse, children, etc.) and you really want them to succeed, but they may not be receptive of your criticism (plus they didn't ask for it)?
Again, if they didn't ask for it, I'm going to keep my mouth shut. If they don't want my opinion, that's their choice. Which saves me a load of hassle, so I'm all for free choice. :)

-Derek

Marian Perera
09-04-2008, 02:04 PM
My father's not really a loved one, so I would probably recommend PA.

Deccydiva
09-04-2008, 02:19 PM
My father's not really a loved one, so I would probably recommend PA.
:roll:
I have no loved ones so the situation will never arise.

qwerty
09-04-2008, 02:43 PM
Opinions should not be offered if they are not requested. Anyone who offers unsolicited opinion is presumably doing so because they think their opinion is too valuable to miss out on.

For that read: I am presumptuous enough to believe my opinion is important, even though it hasn't been requested.

Priene
09-04-2008, 03:02 PM
With most loved ones, it's got to be keep quiet. Children, though.... If they're not adults yet, they'd get my fatherly advice. Then there's a few questionable years around adolescence when everything's going to be a nightmare anyway, and later it defaults back to keeping my mouth shut.


Now let's throw another wrench in this.

What if it's your loved ones (mother, father, sibling, spouse, children, etc.) and you really want them to succeed, but they may not be receptive of your criticism (plus they didn't ask for it)?

Fun, eh?

:)

Mumut
09-04-2008, 03:15 PM
I'm in a writers' group. One of the members writes dreary stories about his past (a long, long time past) life. We all say 'good'. He doesn't contemplate publication.

Another one would like to publish one day. I give advice. It's not hard because the writing is not very bad.

I'm not sure how I'd go with a seriously terrible piece of writing from someone who believes they can get it published. I'd probably suggest a number of beta writers so it wouldn't be just me giving the bad news.

Beach Bunny
09-04-2008, 03:25 PM
Let's say someone hands it to you and say, "Hey, check it out, my latest and greatest and it's going out next week."


Now let's throw another wrench in this.

What if it's your loved ones (mother, father, sibling, spouse, children, etc.) and you really want them to succeed, but they may not be receptive of your criticism (plus they didn't ask for it)?

Fun, eh?

:)

This is a tough one. This sounds like a person who is only looking for approval. Anything less than that is going to hurt their feelings. I'd probably say something noncommittal like "Wow! It looks like you put a lot of effort into this."

Stacia Kane
09-04-2008, 03:29 PM
I had this happen with a casual friend once. She sent me the first seven chapter or so of a book she was working on, and it was the most dreadful thing I'd ever read. Just really, really awful. Exclamation points littered every page. The "hero" was a creepy stalker. The dialogue was wooden. The plot was an Idiot Plot, based on a misunderstanding no human being would actually make.

I had no idea what to say to her.

So I asked if she was planning on trying to get it published. When she said no, she was just having fun, I felt justified in lying and saying it was fun to read, that she might want to buy a book on writing which helped me a lot, because I noticed a few places where the dialogue or description could have been tighter.

Had she been aiming for publication I might have been straighter with her, but honestly, I really couldn't see what more I could have said without really hurting her feelings. The way it was, I felt okay because I'd recommended a book I thought might help, and given her the encouragement to keep trying.

I'm ashamed to admit I kept the file. Every once in a while I'd dig it out and re-read it, to remind myself my work wasn't that bad.

JJ Cooper
09-04-2008, 03:43 PM
>>>>>>>>>>buy Kamagra Oral Jelly<<<<<<<<<======

Penegra, manufactured by the pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila is an effective remedy for treating male impotence or Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Penegra is available in dosages of 25mg, 50mg and 100mg.


goto (deleted SPAM)


I guess we know what Stevie would do.

JJ

CaroGirl
09-04-2008, 04:22 PM
Well, first I'd delete the spam...

Seriously, I never give unsolicited advice. But if it was handed to me by a friend or relative and was truly in need of a lot of work, I'd ask if the person wanted my honest opinion (stressing the word honest to imply it might be a scathing review) and go from there. It would also depend on whether this thing was a done deal or could be fixed. I mean, if it were published and didn't have potential for a do-over, what would be the point?

Priene
09-04-2008, 04:22 PM
Hey, I neg-repped Stevie-boy. I've never done one of those before. It felt good, but a little dirty.

Mr Flibble
09-04-2008, 04:50 PM
Without clicking the link...why is oral jelly good for impotance?

Just asking. Though I can think of a way or two.

illiterwrite
09-04-2008, 05:01 PM
I'd probably say, "I think it's great, but there are a few things I'd do differently. Would you like a critique, or are you happy with it the way it is?"

C.bronco
09-04-2008, 05:16 PM
I'd say, "Good Luck" or something encouraging and then direct him to some resources for craft and beta readers.

heyjude
09-04-2008, 05:38 PM
I'd say something. Just a tentative, "Hey, could I give you a word of advice? While this is (something posititve here, like fun, or this has a great plot, anything positive), it needs a little work before you submit." If they take any kind of umbrage, I'd back off fast and never, ever ever say "I told you so." :)

I'd hate to see them waste all that time and energy submitting something that will never see the light of day.

Then again, when they come back with a bunch of "nos" from agents, maybe they'll seek an opinion.

Shadow_Ferret
09-04-2008, 05:42 PM
Since they haven't solicited my opinion, I'm in the Keep your mouth shut and mind your own business category.

Actually, I'd be more in the skipping around gleefully knowing they weren't much competition for me.

If it was one of my sons or wife, I'd offer my advice. They already come to me with all their editing and proofing needs. So I might as well barge in and offer this advice.

quickWit
09-04-2008, 06:12 PM
I'd keep my opinion to myself (after all, what the hell do I know anyway?), offer my best wishes for their success and hope they find someone who likes it.

Woodsie
09-04-2008, 06:16 PM
... if they haven't solicited your opinion. ...

I would do/say nothing.

tehuti88
09-04-2008, 06:29 PM
There's actually at least one person on the forums, maybe more, I can't recall at the moment, who is interested in publication and all I can think is, they would need to do a LOT of work to make their current concept succeed. I can't for one moment believe it would ever succeed in getting published, much less widely read.

I keep my opinion to myself because they haven't asked for it, it's just my opinion and it could be totally wrong (it's happened, I thought "Pirates Of The Caribbean" would flop big time before it came out!), and it's this person's dream so who am I to stomp all over it? I'm sure some people would think the exact same thing of the stuff I write--in fact, based on a response or two here I know they would. Writing is subjective. I'm not the god of writing, I can't say with certainty what will work and what won't. It's only my opinion. I can offer feedback if asked for it, yes, but I can't say with 100% certainty that something is bad because it's just what *I* think of it.

I'm replying to just the original post here so if additional questions/options have been raised, this doesn't apply to them. Under different circumstances (the person isn't seeking publication, or they ask for my opinion) I might do different things. I can definitely offer constructive feedback without stomping all over somebody's dream. But I would go out of my way to be courteous about it because that's just the way I am, even if something really, horribly sucks. :o

If I REALLY can't think of something nice to say, I just won't say anything at all. But usually I can think of at least one nice thing to say. And can try to say the bad things in a helpful way.

Whether the writer takes them in the spirit intended is another matter entirely and is one reason why I don't offer much feedback anymore!

Phaeal
09-04-2008, 06:42 PM
By "going out," do you mean they will be submitting or querying it, or that it's already been accepted for publication?

If the former, you can still help. If the latter, depends on how far along the publication process has gone.

OK, if there's still time to help, I'd ask, "Do you want me to beta read this?" and explain what beta reading means, if necessary. Let them take me up on it or turn me down, while observing their emotional reaction to the offer to try and figure out if they're open enough to feedback for it to do some good.

Could be they're hoping you'll offer some expertise without them needing to ask for it outright.

Red-Green
09-04-2008, 06:43 PM
Bottom line for me: if the person didn't ask for my opinion, I don't give it. On the same front, I wouldn't feel obliged to say anything more than a neutral "Congratulations." I can keep my mouth shut, but I wouldn't lie. And that goes for my nearest and dearest. If they don't ask my opinion, I don't give it.

DeleyanLee
09-04-2008, 06:50 PM
A serious question for the writers (or readers):

If you come across some material -- manuscript, cover art, synopsis, etc. -- that is, in your opinion, simply awful or needs a lot of work, what would you say to the creator? Especially if they haven't solicited your opinion. Would you:

a) keep your mouth shut and mind your own business?

b) tell a white lie so they feel good about themselves?

c) tell them you think it can be improved and hope they are receptive of your suggestions?

d) tell them the truth: "it's awful; you need to redo/rewrite it"?

I frequent a writer's chatroom where people will often post snippets of their work in progress. The vast majority of them are dreadful. I've gotten in the habit of glancing at new people's and just not reading the rest and staying quiet for the conversation afterward. On the rare occasion I do read the snippet, my comments generally are related to really glaring errors (Have you considered the connotation of this phrase? Did you really mean to imply that your hero is a sex-offender?). A 100-1000 word snippet isn't large enough to tell if there's any systemic problems or not.

Generally, I don't think to crit/comment on things I just find lying around and only go in search of crit forums when I'm in the mood for critiquing. And then it depends on the level of critique I'm doing and how complete the piece I find is.

Nothing's ever simple. LOL!


Let's say someone hands it to you and say, "Hey, check it out, my latest and greatest and it's going out next week."

If they hand it to me, then they've solicited my opinion. I usually will glance over the first bit or three and then decide whether or not I'll read it and, oft-times, will decline to finish because "I can't get to it before your deadline."

If I decide to read it, then I'll get their agreement not to send it out before I get back to them since I consider it an insult to give something out for commentary and then move ahead with it before the beta has a chance to get back to you--but I would endeavor to get back to them within that week, if possible.

And if it's truly hopeless, with large systemic problems, they'll get the straight blunt truth from me. If I'm interested in their story or I consider them a friend, I will often point them in directions to broaden their understand of how story works. I have also simply told them the straight, blunt truth with the intent never to be inflicted with their work ever again. It generally works.

Kate Thornton
09-04-2008, 06:55 PM
If my dear brother - of whom I am exceptionally fond - ever wrote anything unpublishable, I'd be surprised as he is a wonderful, quirky & original writer with a very firm grasp on what turns the ridiculous right into the sublime.

However, if it happened, and if he didn't solicit my opinion (another unlikely incidence as he asks me frequently to read & comment) I think I would tread very carefully. I would never intentionally hurt his feelings, but I would be puzzled and would probably praise all the good stuff and ask if he would let me collaborate on the piece a bit as I might have some more ideas. Then I would offer suggestions in the form of revisions.

I know that sounds like a lot of work, but for a loved one, I would do it. It's part of the love.

For a stranger, I would find something positive to say, because it it so easy to discourage a budding writer and that should be a crime. We all stank once. Encouragement helped us to learn.

Broadswordbabe
09-04-2008, 07:23 PM
Oooh, toughie.

It depends - it really sounds like they didn't want your opinion, or they'd have asked for it earlier; and if you say they might not be receptive anyway...I'd leave it. Go for the 'well done and good luck' option.

I guess maybe if it's truly awful and comes back after months of form rejections, you could suggest they look for some betas, or point them towards SYW (and maybe point out that criticism can be a tough process). If they're likely to get all hot under the collar at any criticism of their baby, I wouldn't mention looking at it yourself unless they specifically ask you to.

NeuroFizz
09-04-2008, 07:33 PM
I must be losing my mind. I really don't remember sending my latest story to you, Ray...

But I did send it to a couple of others, and they can be as brutally honest as they want/need to be because if it's crap, I want to know now so I can work on it. It all depends on if the author can let go of his/her ego and look at the potential benefit for the story. If you have no idea about the person's ability to set ego aside, back away.

JeanneTGC
09-04-2008, 11:41 PM
I go back to, for me, the key word: Unsolicited.

If someone's not asking you what you think, or is asking at a time where you telling the truth will only crush them, or even potentially ruin the relationship, keep your mouth shut.

Personally, if I show someone my book about to hit the shelves and they say, "oh, my, this stinks, is it too late to fix it?" I'm going to despise them for doing their best to ruin my exciting moment, and I'm also going to make sure to send them copies of my royalty checks.

Really, this is a "how to not win friends and negatively influence people" scenario. I vote for Grandma's Rule: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

mysterygrl
09-05-2008, 12:40 AM
If it's a family member or close friend (or even an acquaintance), I would ask if they're looking for feedback or they just wanted to share their work with you.

I had an odd experience with a brother-in-law, who's a non-fiction writer. One of my short stories was published in an e-zine. After he read the story (another relative told him about it), he called to offer me some "suggestions" (i.e., a critique). I explained to him that I couldn't make any changes because the story was published. The kicker: My b-i-l hasn't read a short story in about 20 years and rarely reads novels. So, um, thanks but no thanks.

ishtar'sgate
09-05-2008, 07:49 AM
In my experience it's best to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business if I haven't been asked for an opinion. If they ask, I'll be as tactful as possible but I'll be honest. Lying never did anyone any good.
Linnea

Riley
09-05-2008, 10:44 AM
Depends. Is this a friend or a stranger? Professional or casual setting? If it's a stranger and/or a professional setting (ie--in the middle of a busy store, during work, during school, etc.), I might mention something, but most likely not. I might mention a little, for example, 'isn't it kind of strange for your badass cop to suddenly burst into tears in the middle of a gunfight?'

I'm totally in love with the written word and hate to see it abused. Now drawn art or paintings? Not my realm of expertise, though I know a crappy drawing when I see one. I won't mention anything about them because I can't draw myself.

For a friend in a casual setting, if I she is receptive to suggestions, I'll give them solicited or not, but I'll try not to be too blunt. What I really hate to do is lie. It doesn't do the writer any good.

How do I know if someone is receptive to suggestions? Simple. I look at their technical proficiency. For some reason, it is always the person who can't draw proportions correctly, the person who can't string a logical sentence, who becomes offended at the slightest constructive criticism.

Perhaps this is why I don't have many friends. . .

:)

Cassiopeia
09-05-2008, 12:49 PM
To me, "check it out" can mean one of two things.

1. Hey look what I did! Just be supportive please.
2. Hey look what I did, do you like it? Did I do a good job?

Since the message is not clear here and you are using the term, unsolicited you could be setting yourself up for some trouble if you comment. A lot could happen between the two of you. For example, the person in question (family member or not doesn't change this) could be resentful if you critique it and you are published and they aren't ( you didn't say so I'm guessing here). You want to avoid appearing condescending.

On the other hand, if their temperament or personality is an open and confident one they just might thank you.

You could ask them if they'd like your opinion and then this guessing would be over with.

But consider this, you run the risk of stepping over a thin line here. The one between being helpful and one in which you should mind your own business. As Jeanne said, you may not like it but someone else might just love it.

I always am concerned when shown things that I not overstep my bounds and to remember it can come across as the height of arrogance to offer my opinion or help when it isn't asked for.

One of the things I learned early on in business was that people won't hear what you have to say no matter how valid it might be if you offend them in doing so.

C A Winters
09-05-2008, 01:46 PM
If I were asked-- #C leaves room for dialogue if # D should be the answer. If one is a serious writer, hopefully they would be receptive to constructive critique.